Ask an Addict is a column penned by Helena Paivinen, a Kamloops scholar with expertise in addiction issues and someone who is also an addict. The column is meant to inform and help, which is particularly important as we remain mired in an opioid crisis that continues to claim thousands of lives each year. If you have a question you would like answered, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity is guaranteed.
Cunning, baffling and powerful are three words used to describe addiction.
I add the word cruel.
They say in the program that a day will arrive when nothing will be between you and your substance of abuse. No person, no parent, no sponsor nor monitoring doctor will be there when this opportunity arises.
This is why I work the program every day.
At first I called it “their program,” but now I call it my own.
It is simple. Each day, I wake up and ask for guidance and help. I meditate on the upcoming day. Throughout the day, I check in with myself, with my thinking, with my actions and with how I feel. At night, I review the day, asking how I did.
Was I of service to others (the primary goal of recovery)? Did I help anyone? Was I critical or mean? Do I need to make amends? Where was I wrong? Then I say thank you, a line of gratitude.
The next day, I take care of anything left over from the night before.
I was invited to be a guest speaker via Zoom at a meeting in Denver.
John Denver came to mind. He recorded a song, Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas) with the words, “Please, daddy, don’t get drunk this Christmas, I don’t want to see my mama cry.” I had no idea he was one of us. Actor Anthony Hopkins is also one of us, having recently celebrated 35 years of recovery.
At the meeting in Denver, via Zoom, I said there is no shame in recovery. I told the story of how I lived in fear — fear of disclosing myself publicly to you, the reader.
During the past few months, it has become crystal clear that there is no shame in being of service, of helping others, of taking accountability and promptly admitting when I am wrong.
If anyone wants to shame for those things, for being in recovery, well, what can one say?
I fell on the ice during the Christmas holidays I was all alone and my elbow screamed out in pain. I knew, just knew, what I could do. I talked to my doctor’s receptionist. I knew — I just knew. The doctor wasn’t in, but I knew I could go to the hospital’s emergency room and get painkillers.
I was in literal agony. Each time I moved my arm, there was no mistaking the acute, miserable pain. If not the ER, there was always the drug store, where codeine is sold over the counter.
Nothing stood between me and that drug. After all, my pain was legitimate. But I didn’t go to the ER, nor to the drug store. The most powerful thing that stood between me and my addiction was my program, my higher power, my working recovery each day.
I work the program every day because we never know when we might really need it.
Thank you all for your support. I often think of you when working this program of recovery.